I’ve covered the standard Ardbeg 10 and Corryvreckan whiskies on the blog previously. The 10 is a solid performer in the Islay peat stakes and a reasonable $55. They distillery releases some older whiskies and also a range of NAS offerings both on the value and premium and of pricing. The cheap and rascally Wee Beastie and to-be-tasted An Oa hold the low end of the line (under $50). The premium NAS offerings, Uigeadail and Corryvreckan, increase the stakes as they are priced here in Oregon at $82 and $92, respectively. Going into this testing I’m expecting a smoother delivery than the 10-year and the signature excellence in robust but balanced flavors I have come to expect from Ardbeg. I’m also very curious to see how the two premium offerings compare, and I’ve got an impressive competitor as well, the Bruichladdich Port Charlotte 10.
Auchentoshan, uncommon for being a lowland whisky, is also unique for using triple distillation. (Springbank’s Hazelburn line uses the same technique, but no other Scottish distilleries triple-distill routinely.) Triple distillation used to be more common, since with a mix of grains, you should get a smoother whisky with a third distillation. Over time, the rationale has become moot, as single-malt Scotch has been codified to use only barley malt for the grain, so the expensive extra step for a third distillation isn’t seen as necessary. Auchentoshan continues with the practice to produce a light whisky with fewer heavier oils and proteins from the mash. Since the mash uses only unpeated barley, we’re anticipating a delicate flavor.
If you have someone who is a fan of Scotch (and that’s all you know) this is the guide for you. You want to offer a nice present that is appreciated, and not pushed to the back of the cabinet or mixed with Coke (unless that’s their thing). You want a smile on that day. You have come to the right place.
Buying Scotch can be intimidating because of the multiple styles, regions (which do not always coincide!) and sometimes strong flavor profiles. Scotch drinkers vary from those appreciating a subtle array of delicate aromas and those who like a pugilistic nose like the air in a WW2 battleship’s boiler room.
Note: I am US-based and this guide refers in the main to whiskies you can buy in the US.
In previous posts, I compared in the Battle of the Sub-Jacksons* the blends Cutty Sark, Duggan’s Dew, Grant’s Family Reserve and Ballantine’s Finest. That is a very popular post (well, for this modest blog) garnering a few hits per day. But the sub-Jackson (under $20) category has other entrants that bear review. Today we’ll take on White Horse, a Diageo brand, and J & B Rare, another Diageo brand, and throw in Ballantine’s Finest ($19.95 locally) as a benchmark from the first sub-Jackson battle.
First off, why two Diageos? Well, they’re separated by a whopping $2, J&B being the pricier one here in Oregon at $19.95. We’d have three Diageos but Johnnie Walker Red is another $2 and breaks the Jackson barrier. Diageo really have the blended market saturated. And they have a couple 12-year blends too. More on those in a later post.
“Glenfiddich is the world’s best-selling single-malt whisky” according to Wikipedia. Though not quite as ubiquitous as Jameson’s (a blended), you can find Glenfiddich in about any bar. More remarkable is that Glenfiddich is a marque of William Grant & Sons, a family business, not a multinational, and yet they are number 3 in Scotch whisky production behind Diageo and Pernod Ricard. I have an unscientific survey (visiting bars for 30-odd years) and in my estimation, their closest competitor is The Glenlivet, another Speyside distillery (owned by Pernod Ricard) with a near-equal global reach. I’ve reviewed a number of their whiskies recently but the comparison for this head-to-head will be the Glenlivet 12-year.
To produce their worldwide reach, Glenfiddich employs an astonishing 31 stills to produce 13 M liters of spirit per annum. Their spirit stills are rather small (4550 l.). Compare to Glenmorangie’s 12 stills (6M liters per annum) or the Glenlivet’s 14 stills (10.5 M liters per annum). Even the mighty Macallan, which also uses small stills, has only 24, but produces 16M liters a year (per whisky.com). Continue reading “Whisky and Words Number 70: Battle of the Speyside Giants: Glenfiddich 12 vs. The Glenlivet 12”